• Play Like a Champion

Acting Like a Champion

This week's blog is a guest post written by Play Like a Champion trainer Kevin Larkin from the Diocese of Covington. Interested in providing your own guest post? Contact us at We love to share the thoughts of our community and your post could be featured here!

This weekend I taught my first (Play Like a Champion) parent class, which is very different from teaching coaches. While it was different, I was actually surprised as to how much teaching this class made me look at myself and wonder if I made sure my kids behaved like a champion. I also looked at the behavior I saw played over and over of Serena Williams and her rant against the official she thought was being unfair. I applaud her for standing up for herself; she wanted to be treated fairly and she felt that was not happening. I also think it was great that others, like Billie Jean King, came out and defended the treatment she got from the officials as it came to the obviously unfair decisions against her. While all of that happened, it seems like something was completely forgotten which could make an impression on a young athlete. While I thought of her using the Cardinal Virtue of Justice that she wanted for herself, I believe she forgot there is another side of that: treating others with respect, including officials. We teach our kids to accept the decisions of officials when they are in competitions themselves. There was no one speaking out about how she treated the official. I can only imagine if one of my kids or players talked to an official that way, calling him a thief and destroying equipment in anger. No one made her own her behavior and how she treated the official in that moment, no matter how wrong he may have been.

The more opportunities I have to teach the Play Like a Champion Today class, the more I reflect on situations that my children and I have been in and wondered, did I hold them accountable? Did I talk to them about Justice and Temperance? Did I take the time to make sure they showed their character and treated everyone with respect? I had the chance this summer to use all that I had learned to get my 12-year-old son through a situation. He has discovered diving and has a burning passion to excel at it. In the championship meet this summer, he dove against several new kids that he was taking lessons with. His first dive, he did in the wrong position because he was worried about how it was listed and got distracted. He got a score of 2 and was absolutely heart broken. He wanted to win and this mistake took that away. I spoke to him and told him the most important thing now was how he reacted to what happened. He could still do very well and have fun, or he could let this ruin his day. He came back with three great dives and ended up in 3rd place. What was more important was how he reacted when a friend made a similar mistake. His friend made a mistake and got a major point deduction on his dive, and what happened next made me think that this is how a Champion acts. He stopped talking to me and met his friend when he got out of the dive well and tried to keep him from getting down about what happened. They were competing against each other, but he was more worried about his friend getting through what had happened. It was a great moment, he owned his own outcome but also took what he learned and helped his opponent with what he was dealing with. To me, it was showing the Cardinal virtue of Justice, and I pray he carries that with him forever.

I have always thought of coaching as more than teaching a game, it’s teaching values of respect for others, always doing your best, and learning how to function as a team. While Serena does not have a team that she is part of, she has earned the respect of others for how she has handled herself. Just because you have done well at other times, does not give you a pass to treat people unfairly. We can have a bad game or not feel up to competing, but we can always treat opponents and officials fairly. This was an opportunity to remind the athletes we teach, no matter the outcome and how you perform, you can always control how you treat others.

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